At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Thursday, April 30, 2015

When the Intolerant Short-Circuit Things (In Defense of Eichel)

All right. You want to throw down and go at it? 

A story, first of all.

Today, I was pulling out of the parking lot in St. Peters, MO, after getting dinner at Little Caesar's. I was going the correct way down the lane when another guy zoomed in, headed toward me in his car going the WRONG direction. I honked my horn, yelled, "Hey, you're going the wrong stinking way!" and put my hands up, palms facing skyward.

The guy--talking on his cell phone, mind you--screamed at me. His windows were closed but I didn't need good ears. Two words.

"F--- YOU!"

Nice. Wrong guy going the wrong way. And he feels the scales of justice would be balanced if he shot that wad in my direction. Never stopped to consider his actions.

Today, my friend Eichel Davis (no relation), a freshman at the University of Missouri wrote a post on his blog about the troubles in Ferguson in retrospective, looking back at the death of Michael Brown. Since I was his blog to get even more readership (and so you can see his authorial labors), go read it here. You might agree with his statements; you might not. That is not the issue. What got me angry were the comments. Eichel was criticized for grammar and that his "claims are just plain wrong". Other comments were less than gracious.

Whether you agree with Eichel is immaterial. Whether or not I do is immaterial. Whether someone makes mistakes or errors in writing is a side issue. (YOU try writing a blog, or more dauntingly, a book or two or three, and keep your mechanics and syntax as clean as Mother Teresa's soul) What matters is how you respect the process of civil dialogue and thoughtful conversation. Eichel, to his credit, was very gracious in his replies.

If we cannot model honest debate, we will lose hope for our nation. So someone might post something you disagree with...Are you that insecure that you have to engage in ancillary comments or sarcastic blather that have nothing to do with the issue at hand? Can we not see that speaking dismissively might rake in the ratings for CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News but it won't forge the bonds between people of good will in debates that should be--at their hearts--impassioned yet intellectual exercises.

It would be good to recall an iconic scene from Pat Conroy's The Lords of Discipline, when military college classmates Dante Pignetti and Mark Santoro get into a fistfight. Pignetti takes issue with roommate Will McLean for Will not liking American involvement in the Vietnam War. Santoro intervenes with a vicious punch to Pig's temple and then says, "This is college, you dumb bastard. This is a place where you're supposed to argue and learn and get pissed off. You don't go around choking your buddies because they don't happen to believe what you believe."

I might not use Santoro's exact language, but the point is the same. You don't verbally clobber someone on a blog or conversation because you feel that tearing them down is the way to success. Juan Williams bemoans this tendency in his book Muzzled. Is the world going to end because you don't like what someone says or believes? Don't they deserve a listening ear instead of a stinging volley?

Keep being gracious, Eichel. Pure class, buddy.

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